Pat Yourself on the Sack!

May 7, 2009

How often do we hand out an “atta boy” around here?  That’s an old-school phrase for a pat on the back or a “job well done!” type of compliment. I want to bring your attention to something changing at the most basic of levels: the common human experience of the grocery store.  Are you noticing (like I am) that every time you step into the grocery store, you see more and more people pulling out their reusable grocery sacks? 

Although I haven’t seen figures yet, it seems I am constantly surrounded by people who are bringing their own usable sacks.  And I’m liking what I see.

Manufacturers are also offering more options.  Instead of just a more durable plastic sack, there are now options that don’t involve plastic.  They are made of fabric and here are a few that I’ve seen with increasing frequency:

•  String bags.  This bag is extremely lightweight, yet able to carry an immense amount of groceries.  Its ability to stretch is almost unparalleled.  Just when you think you’re done, you find one more item that has to go in.   And it does.
•  Lightweight nylon bags.  The cool thing about this alternative is that it fits in with the current system for bagging groceries at the check-out counter. It is a more durable but still lightweight material compared to the plastic bag. But again it lacks structure when loading.
•  Heavyweight nylon bags.  These are made to last a lifetime. Tote bags are often made of this heavy nylon. It resembles a traditional paper grocery bag with some added handles; it stands nicely on its own for easy packing. However with that durability and quality of materials comes a not-so-compact package. It folds similarly to a paper grocery bag.
•  Environmental friendly people want to be associated and seen with natural fabric bags. Available in soft and natural hues, some bags ooze class and concern. Multicolored patchwork bags, printed bags, embroidered and embossed bags are everyone's favorite.

I’m guessing that soon we will find ourselves customizing our own bags and adding a little of “this or that” to distinguish them from other people’s bags.  Individualism is encouraged, but think of the possibilities for your business as you put walking advertisement of your friendship with the earth into the hands of customers who will then carry them everywhere. 

We’re already seeing more of these and it’s wonderful to behold.  It means that Greenification is going forward.  And maybe someday, those disposable, life-sucking plastic bags will be gone. 


Spring Forward to Greenify!

May 5, 2009

We're finally feeling the Spring temperatures in most areas of the United States, which means it’s time to get out and enjoy the warm air and sun on our faces.  How can you do that and gather the gang for some Greenification?  How about a little community project? 

You’ve seen those signs along the side of the freeway: "Adopted by Acme Business Supply."  Ever wonder what that "adoption" entails?  Usually, it means contacting your state or local municipality to formally sponsor taking care of the side of the highway, clearing it of litter and debris.  It could be your business’ name instead of “Acme Business Supply” on the roadside sign.

That’s right: you sponsor the section of the highway.  In most states, you aren’t expected to get out there to clean and maintain that section yourself.  They do it for you as part of the sponsorship fee.  But maybe you’d like that opportunity?

I was walking through my neighborhood this past weekend when I saw a discarded takeout container.  It surprised me, because I was in the “gated” section where such littering usually doesn’t happen.  I picked up the container because it was so out of place that I felt a little leaving it there.  I walked it over to another neighbor’s recycling bin where I tucked it safely inside.

You can do that anytime, anyplace, you know.  If you see a cup or plate out of place, you can just pick it up and carry it to a waste receptacle.  Nobody has to tell you that it’s not a pretty sight.  You can just properly dispose of it when you spot such littering. 

Of course, if you’d like to pay to sponsor the greenification of a section of roadway, that’s great, too.   But maybe grab a picnic lunch and the office gang some weekend and go find a street you can clean on your own.  Since it’s greenification not glorification that’s the goal, it’s all good in our thinking.  And maybe it’ll make the Spring flowers smell a little sweeter, too.

 

 


How Green Is Your Clean?

May 4, 2009

Let's talk about personal hygiene a little here.  Are you cleaning your house at the expense of the environment?  You know you can actually introduce more toxins in while you're trying to rid your house of dirt and germs, but there doesn't have to be a trade off.   You can have a clean house and greenify at the same time.

These days, there are a myriad of products advertising their green cleaning abilities.  Many of these products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). But if designer labels aren’t for you, home-mixed cleaners can get the job done and then some.  In fact, distilled white vinegar or baking soda (not necessarily used together) can clean almost anything.  The stringent, grease-cutting of the vinegar or the neutral (but abrasive) power of the baking soda work to fight most household messes.  Mix a little warm water with either (or use that vinegar by itself for the toughest greasiest problems) and you'll have a good all-purpose cleaning agent.

These types of cleaners are especially important in cleaning your fridge.  You want to clean the plastic insulation seals on your refrigerator doors on a fairly regular basis in order to prolong their life and to make sure that they function optimally.  Cleaning them with vinegar insures that any oily food residue is thoroughly removed.  And using plain white vinegar insures that you're not introducing any toxins into the refrigerator where your food is being kept.  Wiping down the rest of the refrigerator's interior with a baking soda solution helps remove any stuck on bits of food and at the same time has a deodorizing effect on the fridge. 

Other non-toxic ingredients you can use to clean your home include glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, vegetable-oil-based soap sometimes referred to as castile soap (Castile soap is found in most health food stores. Dr. Bronner's is a popular brand.) and small amounts of Borax.  

There are a myriad of recipes and ways to use these ingredients found online.  The key thing needed is a commitment that you want to clean your home in a way that is safe for you and the environment. 


Eat Your Vegetables - After You Grow Them!

May 1, 2009

Can we talk about vegetables today?  Many of us are putting in gardens this year.  We may or may not have grown our own vegetables and fruits in the past, but this year, by golly, is the year that Mrs. Obama said the President will be out with his basket and spade, and so we are determined to green up our back and side yards, add some herbs on a window ledge, or maybe even just do some jars of sprouts for salads. 
 
But what happens when you go out to check those little sprouts and see dark little crawly things hanging all over the tender leaves that you worked so hard to bring out of the ground?  You're going to eat these things, so you don't want to use something chemical-y, right?  But how green are those pesticides they sell for home garden use?
 
Most insecticides, both synthetic and natural, interfere with insects' nerve transmissions. DDT, lindane and Ortho cause insect neurons to fire randomly, causing spasms and death.  Sounds tasty, doesn't it?  Well, not really.

They're less harmful to mammals, but in the environment they break down into toxic chemicals that can last for decades, move into ground water, and poison all sorts of animals.

But having never grown chives that did not suffer the ravages of bugs that sucked the lifeblood out of them, leaving them yellow and dead, I personally am neither sympathetic to insects nor desirous of consuming nerve poisons, even in minute amounts.

Many of the newer green pesticides have a unique mode of action that targets insects to block a key neurotransmitter receptor site.

"The neurotransmitter in insects is called octopamine; it is basically the insects' version of adrenaline," explains Gary Stamer of Chemtec Pest Control, based in Saddle Brook, N.J. "The botanicals block the octopamine, resulting in a shutdown of the insect's nervous system. Since only insects have this receptor, there is no harm to mammals, birds or fish."

But how can consumers be certain how green their "natural" pesticide is? Check with the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, which awards its Green Shield Certification (GSC) to services that use non-chemical approaches to pest control, and use approved pesticides only when necessary.

You can grow a garden, Greenify just a little and enjoy your own vegetables safely this summer, without poisoning yourself or the environment around you. 


Bring Your Lunch to Greenify and Save Money

April 30, 2009

Want to Greenify, save money and improve your health at the same time?  I have three words for you: bring your lunch.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can save you the time and mental disconnect/reconnect of having to go out for it.  It saves on money because a lunch you prepare at home from healthy, well-chosen ingredients can cost substantially less and at the same time, it can improve your health as you learn to make better nutritional choices.
 
To get started, you'll want to choose some reusable, "green" supplies to let you safety and conveniently bring and store food from home.  This may seem counter-intuitive on cost savings because you'll want to invest in the best tools to get started, but choose wisely and you'll be ahead of the game.
 
There are numerous websites offering eco-friendly lunchboxes, bags, and utensils.  This one at Pristine Planet features some interesting choices.
 
Also Go Green Lunch Boxes has some designs that are powerfully perky.
 
Some of these containers are going to have plastic, which isn't preferred by me, but may be liked by you.  As long as you reuse it, it's still an improvement over throw-away styrofoam containers, in my humble, lunch-eater's opinion.
 
But for my money, nothing beats a tiffin tin.   
 
I think I bought mine in a container store about ten years ago.  I've been using it to store little bits of this-n-that in the kitchen where it works quite wonderfully.  But, the only downside of this type of container is that of course, you can't stuff if in the microwave to heat your lunch.  But for durability, reusability and general stylishness, it can't be beat.  Toss in some cool reusable utensils made of sustainable bamboo easily picked up at Target, Crate N Barrel or just about any other department store and you're home free.
 
Bringing your lunch to work can't be beat either.  I'm going to jump off on what goes inside, but try to keep it close to home and organic.  If leftover meatloaf is what you have, well, you are the lucky one!  I hope you're eating it on whole grain bread with some really good mustard.   I'm betting that this year, bringing lunch to work is the Greenifying, economizing, nutritionalizing retro-trend of the year. 


Now that Earth Day Is Over... What Are You Doing?

April 28, 2009

Now that Earth Day is over again for this year, how do we go forward with our resolve to be more protective of our planet and its valuable natural resources?
We've celebrated the planet, now it's time to get serious and Greenify in a meaningful way.
 
Here are some ideas that I had:
 
*Car pool at least one day per week.  This saves on fuel and parking spaces at work.  If you're the boss, lead the way and encourage employees to do it.  Maybe you can start by offering to pick up an employee or two on the way to work at least once a week.
 
*Turn off lights when you leave the room.  Every time.
 
*Use recyclable paper as often as possible.  Yes, it does cost a little more, but it also saves our planet a lot.
 
*Dial down on heat and up on air conditioning.  68 degrees in the winter and 72 degrees in the summer (if not more) can make a huge difference in the company energy bill, too.
 
*Intall timers on restroom lights.  It's a safe bet no one wants to stay in there very long anyway, right? 
 
*Eat lunch at your desk.  Saves money and fuel.
 
*Add plants for decoration and pollution control.  If you have landscaping outdoors, remember to put the watering cycles on timers, too, and water only at night.Conservation is key. 
 
*Encourage others in their to Greenify, as well.  Can we underestimate the power of a good compliment to a fellow businessperson?  If they're weighing the importance of their greenification efforts, it's always good to hear encouraging words.  Plus, it does help make and keep friends.
 
Earth Day only comes once per year, but the goal is to celebrate the importance of our Earth every day and try to keep it a clean, more healthful place to live.


America the Beautiful; Americans the Energy Conservationists!

April 24, 2009

I just finished driving across country from the East Coast to the West Coast, which I have done several times before.  Every time I do this, I notice something different.  This time, what struck me was the growth of alternative energy sources around the country.  We’re looking for alternative energy and it seemed to me, the answer is blowing in the wind.

I am accustomed to seeing the huge turbines in the desert surrounding Palm Springs.  They sometimes are turning but many of them are stilled and I’ve always wondered whether they are still due to lack of wind or lack of interest in making them provide clean energy to operate our cities?

I took a different route this time and saw wind farms where I had never seen them before including the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center.  This energy farm in Texas is the world’s largest energy producing wind farm with 735.5 megawatt capacity.  Texas is the state with the most wind farms in operation as well as the most farms under construction. 

I also saw wind farms in operation in Iowa when I was there last summer.  Minnesota and Oregon both also have large numbers of farms.

But the sight of these gentle-looking giants slowly turning, looking as though they will spring loose and roll away with the wind driving them always makes me wonder why we don’t have more of these?

The government has been pouring resources into renewable energy sources.  There is support for these programs and interest in them. Americans have said in surveys that they will pay more for green products.  This is one that ought to be supported.

Taking a coast-to-coast road trip is actually a fairly resource-intensive undertaking.  But my plans necessitated it, and I hoped some good would come it.  So thanks for letting me share these hopeful views of our country.  We can Greenify together, and we need to find answers.  This past week, I saw that process getting underway. 


Earth Day Appreciation

April 22, 2009

I thought in celebration of Earth Day 2009, we would go over a few facts about the wonderful world we live in.  These are some of the many things I find amazing about our planet:

Our Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

It travels through space at 660,000 miles per hour.

During the course of one day, the sun causes about one trillion tons of water to evaporate.

Jellyfish have been on Earth for over 650 million years, before sharks and dinosaurs.

The Amazon rainforest produces more than 20% of the world's oxygen supply.

There are more insects in one square mile of rural land than there are human beings on the entire earth.

The overall amount of water on our planet has remained the same for two billion years.

Approximately 70 percent of the Earth is covered with water. Only 1 percent of the water is drinkable.

In a 100-year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about 2 weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere; but at the same time, groundwater can take a human lifetime just to traverse a mile.

The oceans of the world would rise about 60 meters if Antarctica's ice sheets melted.

The Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific Ocean.

If all the salt were to be extracted from the oceans, there would be enough salt to cover all the continents five feet deep.

An earthquake in 1811 caused parts of the Mississippi River to flow backwards.

Finland is also known as "the land of of the thousand lakes."

Aluminum forms one-twelfth of the Earth's crust.

A volcano has enough power to shoot ash as high as 50 km into the atmosphere.

About 27 tons of dust rains down on the earth each day from space.

It is impossible for a solar eclipse to last more than 8 minutes.

Of all known forms of animals life ever to inhabit the Earth, only about 10 percent still exist today.

The sad truth is to realize how many of these factoids are being impacted by our human presence and poor stewardship of the planet.  Earth Day is a great day to consider how you can consume less, leave a smaller carbon footprint, and perhaps leave the world a better place. 

Best wishes for the greenest of Earth Days from your friends at Green Business Alliance.

Greenify Today for a Better Tomorrow!


Earth Day 2009

April 20, 2009

Earth Day is coming up this Wednesday, so I thought today we’d talk a little about the history of this great day on our planet.  It’s a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for our Mother Earth. 

In September 1969 at a conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced a “nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment” that would be celebrated the following Spring. This announcement came at a time of great concern about overpopulation and when there was a strong movement towards "Zero Population Growth."

Senator Nelson proposed the nationwide environmental protest in order to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.

"It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."

April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement as approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment.

The man who coordinated all those people, Denis Hayes led the organization of massive coast-to-coast rallies. There were thousand of colleges and universities organizing protests against the abuse and deterioration of the environment.  Groups that had fought against pollution of factories, steel mills, and power plants, organizing against oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways and wildlife extinction all suddenly came together under one umbrella.

By Earth Day on April 22, 1990, the number answering the rally cry had reached 200 million, with a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide.  It also helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Earth Day in 2000 focused on global warming and a push for clean energy.  It combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. It also had the Internet helping to link activists around the world as 5,000 environmental groups reached out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Earth Day 2009 is expected to push forward with more driving force, bringing over half a billion people together with one goal and focus: to stop deterioration and pollution of the planet; to undo damage where possible and to provide a better world for all of us to live in.  We hope you will join in this wondrous cause with us. 


Use What You Have, Consume Fewer Resources

April 16, 2009

When I was a child, my father liked to refer to any of his four children as “The Great Consumer” whenever we wasted things.  You know how kids are: we piled our plates high, but ate less than half of the food we took.  We constantly wanted more toys or clothes.  And we left the lights on as we went from room to room. 

These days, we’re all trying to crack down on expenses.  You might start by looking in your own refrigerator.  Wasted food is clogging up our landfills.  According to the EPA, 31.7 million tons of food scraps were sent to landfills in 2007. That’s a lot of dry toast and bad meatloaf.  Those 63 billion pounds of food sitting in landfills are creating methane gases in their decay, which is destroying our ozone layer and cause global warming.

Some folks are getting really creative with it.  The online community is full of talk of people getting all their food out of dumpsters.  They are “rescuing” vegetables, baked goods, and other items from refuse containers and using it in their diets.  And they’re feeling good about it. 

Other groups are taking in leftover baked goods from commercial bakeries and produce that has passed its prime and making meals for the homeless and lower income families.  These food items are often very high quality, but since many Americans don’t like the label “day old,” these items are discarded and picked up by groups such as Forgotten Harvest as well as local and regional kitchens around the country.

What can you do?  Focus on what you’re eating.  Take leftovers to work for lunch.  Make just what you need and eat what you make.  You’ll be happier, less wasteful, and have a smaller carbon footprint.  You also won’t have a father calling you “The Great Consumer” anymore.  


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